Matt McCaffrey over at MisesEconomicBlog makes note of a common trait among our intellectuals:
…“For [a revolutionary] atmosphere to develop it is necessary that there be groups to whose interest it is to work up and organize resentment, to nurse it, to voice it and to lead it.” Enter the intellectuals.
The intellectuals are a paradoxical product of the market economy, because “unlike any other type of society, capitalism inevitably and by virtue of the very logic of its civilization creates, educates and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest.” Like Hayek, Schumpeter described intellectuals broadly as “people who wield the power of the spoken and the written word.” More narrowly, “one of the touches that distinguish them from other people who do the same is the absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs.” That is, intellectuals do not participate in the market (at least not in the areas they write about), and do not generally rely on satisfying consumers to earn a living. Add to this their naturally critical attitude—which Schumpeter argues is the product of the essential rationality of the market economy—and it is easy to see why intellectuals would be hostile to the market.
In other words, intellectuals are often out of place in entrepreneurial societies. The growth of the intellectual class is not a response to consumer demand, but to the expansion of higher education. Passing through the higher education system does not necessarily confer valuable skills, but it often does convince graduates that work in the market is beneath them…
That is all very true, but I’d add something else to it: our intellectuals are, for the very largest part, amazingly un-intellectual. For people who pride themselves on an alleged ability to think, they don’t think about much – and this is mostly because they don’t know very much. Marx wrote a book about what the laboring class wants when he had never done a lick of laboring work in his life. Lenin wrote a book about the development of capitalism in Russia when he had never entered the marketplace, at all. What on earth could such men think they were writing about? It’d be like me trying to write an in depth, philosophical work about surgery. I might have some interesting comments to make on the subject, but to take me for an expert in it, no matter how much I claim to have thought about it, would be absurd. Unless you get out there and see how its done, you’ll never really know.